ARC REVIEW: This Is Really Happening – by Erin Chack

Title: This Is Really Happening
Author: Erin Chack

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir,  Humor
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group / Razorbill
Finished reading: April 24th 2017
Pages: 240

“I realized then that luck is a slippery thing, hard to hold and keep with you. No amount of worrying will prepare you for when it starts thrashing around in your hands. Luck happens whenever it feels like it, wherever it feels like it, however it feels like it.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Penguin Young Readers Group / Razorbill in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Two years ago I made a promise to myself to read more non fiction stories, and since I’ve discovered I really enjoy reading memoirs even if I’m not familiar with the author. I came across This Is Really Happening in one of the Buzz Books editions at Netgalley, and I was instantly convinced by the short excerpt provided there. To my surprise, my request came through last Saturday… And since I was in the mood for a memoir, I decided to try and read it before the publish date today. This Is Really Happening is without doubt a well written and fast read with just the right dose of humor. It contains various, mostly ‘coming of age’ essays about various stages in Erin Chack‘s life. To get an idea of the topics in the essays: among other things she talks about high school and how she met her partner, about her battle against cancer at the age of nineteen and how people react to the illness, about her job at BuzzFeed and her roadtrip from coast to coast. What stands out is the enjoyable writing style and the fact that Erin Chack tells things exactly how they are; not hiding the ugly (and maybe embarrassing) details and that makes this memoir feel a lot more authentic. Serious topics are mixed with hilarious moments and if you are looking for an entertaining, well written and interesting coming of age memoir, This Is Really Happening is a great choice.

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A collection of personal essays where Erin Chack writes about a variety of things that happened to her while growing up. From meeting her partner during high school to her battle with cancer, dealing with the symptoms of chemotherapy, what it’s like working as a writer at BuzzFeed, college and an extended roadtrip; she recounts everything with a healthy dose of humor and honesty, talking about various universal themes along the way.

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If you enjoy reading memoirs and are looking for a well written and fast-paced bundle of essays with just the right balance of serious topics and humor, This Is Really Happening would be right up your alley. I really enjoyed the writing style and the general tone of the story. It feels like Erin Chack is telling you her story while sharing a drink in a bar; personal, honest and with just the right dose of humor. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The Red Hunter – by Lisa Unger

Title: The Red Hunter
Author: Lisa Unger

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Touchstone
Finished reading: April 18th 2017
Pages: 368

“It was getting to me. I was vibrating, giving off the energy of the thing I tried to hide and harness. I had given it a name. A thing that lived inside of me. The Red Hunter. Rage.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Touchstone in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Lisa Unger has been one of the (many) authors on my need-to-read-soon list for a long time, so it wasn’t just the breathtakingly beautiful cover that made me want to read The Red Hunter. It’s always great to get to know the work of authors who belong to one of my favorite genres, and now I’ve had a sample I’m definitely planning to pick up more of Lisa Unger‘s novels. The start of The Red Hunter was a bit slow and it took me some time to connect the different storylines, but as soon as the pace picked up: BAM! Instant pageturner. Each storyline adds something different to the story, and there is no doubt it’s a fascinating one. Trigger warnings for rape and violence, but nothing ‘too’ graphic. The Red Hunter basically focuses on the lives of two different completely different women. Confession: I wasn’t a big fan of Claudia Bishop, although it was interesting to see how she tried to deal with her rape trauma and I liked the whole house renovation subplot. Her daughter Raven is without doubt a very interesting character as well… But I found Zoey Drake’s chapters to be the most intriguing ones. She had without doubt a very traumatic childhood experience that scarred her for life, and her messed up character was fascinating. And once the pace picks up, the many many MANY plot twists will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page. I had my suspicions about certain things, but I didn’t guess the complete truth until the very end. And trust me, after reading so many psychological thrillers, that doesn’t happen often. Recommended for fans of the genre!

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Both Claudia and Zoe are traumatized by a horrific event in their past and scarred for life, although they each try to find a way to continue with their lives. Claudia Bishop had what she thought the perfect life until she was brutally assaulted and raped in her own home… Her marriage hasn’t survived, and she still doesn’t know who is the real father of the daughter that was born nine months after the attack. She is looking for a fresh start renovating an old house which she inherited from her father, blogging about her experience along the way.

Zoey Drake on the other hand has never recovered from the horrific home invasion when she was a teenager, an event that resulted in the murder of her parents and she almost died as well that night. None of the guys that were involved were ever caught, and years later Zoey is still looking for justice and/or revenge. She is no longer weak, having been trained in martial arts, but is she truly ready to face the demons of the past? And does Claudia realize what is the true history of the house she is trying to restore to its former glory?

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The Red Hunter is without doubt a fascinating read and even though it started out a bit slow, I ended up really enjoying it. Not every character is all that likeable, but they are all well developed and add something to the story. It’s also intriguing how the different characters try to deal with the traumas of their past, and all in all it is without doubt an worthy psychological thriller.


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ARC REVIEW: Blood Moon – by John David Bethel

Title: Blood Moon
Author: John David Bethel

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 4th 2016
Publisher: Tell-Tale Publishing Group
Finished reading: April 2nd 2017
Pages: 355

“When your life is on the line, you can do a lot of things you never thought possible.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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April is going to be all about the ARC readathon, so what better way than to start the month with an ARC?! I’ve had Blood Moon pending for a while now. I remember reading the blurb back when I was offered a copy and being intrigued by the brutality of the case and the note that part of the story was actually based on a true event. This fact alone adds a whole different level to Blood Moon, because the main character goes through a LOT: it’s basically a miracle he was able to survive. I think it was a wise choice to include the introduction and explain more about the original case; some readers might have ended up questioning the credibility of the plot otherwise. Blood Moon is an interesting read with a lot of action and violent/graphic scenes (little warning in case you don’t like those!). The prose reads easily and the pace is fast, as you might already expect for these kind of stories. I also liked the use of Spanish by some of the characters as it added without doubt authenticity to the story. And while initially I had my doubts about the obvious grammar mistakes in the Spanish dialogues, they turned out to be an accurate imitation of how Spanish is actually spoken on the streets of Miami (as was clarified by the author). In short, if you enjoy reading fast-paced thrillers and don’t mind a healthy dose of violence and graphic scenes, definitely give Blood Moon a go. The whole story is intriguing!

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Just as the Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is about to leave his business, he is brutally beaten and abducted. He finds himself handcuffed, shackles and blindfolded in an unknown building, and he has no clue as to why he has been targeted in the first place. The kidnappers accuse him of stealing, but Recidio doesn’t remember ever having stolen something. And then he recognizes a voice, and knows he is in big trouble. Recidio is tortured and threatened; forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors. Somehow he manages to survive, but his story doesn’t end there… As nobody seems to believe Recidio’s story except for his lawyer and family.

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The plot of Blood Moon is a story almost too incredible to be true, and I guess that if I hadn’t read the introduction first I would have thought it to be not that plausible. But it is all too real what the main character Recidio has to go through… And the whole ordeal definitely makes for an excellent as well as horrific thriller story. Fast-paced and easy to read, action-packed and gritty; if you like the genre, you will enjoy this one.


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BOOK REVIEW: History Is All You Left Me – by Adam Silvera

Title: History Is All You Left Me
Author: Adam Silvera

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: January 17th 2017
Publisher: Soho Teen
Finished reading: March 31st 2017
Pages: 320

“People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished. Sometimes that’s for the best. Some pieces can’t be forced into a puzzle, or at least they shouldn’t be, because they won’t make sense.”

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This title has been on my list of most anticipated releases ever since I first heard about it and is also a case of insta-coverlove (I’m sure I’m not the only one on both counts). It took me longer than I hoped to be able to finally pick up my copy of History Is All You Left Me, but I’m definitely glad I finally did. I can completely understand why so many people seem to love this book now! It’s true my own expectations were set just a tiny bit too high, but there is no doubt that this newest novel by Adam Silvera is a great read. The writing style is excellent as well as the character development, and it definitely would be wise to keep a box of tissues ready. Because History Is All You Left Me is filled raw, realistic emotions and talks about both grief and how to deal with the death of someone close. It might not have been the 5 star read I was expecting, but that doesn’t take away I was thoroughly absorbed by the story and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew how the story ended. The characters are realistic and have their own little quirks… And while some things about certain characters annoyed me a little, they were able to win me over anyway. Kuddos to the author for the inclusion of OCD in the plot and I loved the different relationships. True, I felt the whole story was a bit messy, but mostly a good messy. If you are a fan of the genre, realistic and quirky characters and don’t mind a healthy dose of sad, you will probably love History Is All You Left Me.

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Theo was Griffin’s first love, and also the first time he ‘came out’. He had to let him go as Theo left for California to study last year, and now Griffin lost him all over again in a drowning accident. In an attempt to hold onto every piece of the past, he wants to talk to Theo’s last boyfriend Jackson as well. When Jackson starts to show signs of guilt, Griffin starts to suspect he is hiding something… And he is determined to find out the whole truth about Theo’s death.

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There is no doubt that History Is All You Left Me is both a well written and emotional read with excellent characters. It shows a wide variety of emotions and I loved learning more about how the different relationships started and developed. Reality is added to those emotions by the fact that the author doesn’t leave out the ‘ugly’ parts. If you like the genre, I can definitely suggest giving this one a try!


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ARC REVIEW: Silence Under Screams – by Collin Henderson

Title: Silence Under Screams
Author: Collin Henderson

Genre: Short Stories, Horror, Thriller
First published: October 19th 2016
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Finished reading: March 30th 2017
Pages: 108

“I could hear the sound of my own breathing over the humming in the room. It filled my ears, quickened my heart, took control of me and didn’t let me go.”

*** A copy of this collection of short stories was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’m a bit ashamed it took me this long to pick up this collection of short horror stories, but I’m glad I finally gave Silence Under Screams a go. I was in the mood for a proper horror read to inaugurate the upcoming Autumn months, and this was just what I was looking for. This collection by Collin Henderson is a real treat: you get to have FOUR different horror subgenres/styles all in one bundle!

I will be doing this review slightly different than usual and both give a summary and my thoughts on each of the four short stories below instead of having different sections.

 Silence Under Scream starts out strong with a short story called Old Strings… Basically a tribute to every B horror movie out there and delightfully creepy! It’s about a crazy Hollywood director coming back as a puppet and has all the classic B horror movie moments. A lone cabin in the woods… Check. Creepy creature attack moment… Check. Lots of graphic scenes… Check. Classic surprise moment… Check. Do you need more? A little warning for swearing and graphic descriptions, but Old Strings was one of my personal favorites.

The second story is called Deus Ex Corpus, and is without doubt something completely different. It belongs to a genre called bizzaro and partly inspired by an author called Jeremy Robert Johnson. I have to admit it might have been a bit too much for me to handle… This story is about a strange sect worshipping a strange god and an undercover journalist trying to get her next article, and it was without doubt nothing like I have ever read before. It’s a bit too weird to my taste and is packed with heavily graphic scenes… Don’t read it if you are grossed out easily or don’t tolerate for example the mention of body fluids. It does seem to be a good example of the genre though.

The third story is probably the most ‘light’ horror read and is mostly phsychological. It’s called Stranger and sort of a coming of age story where a trauma/scary childhood moment keeps haunting the main characters as they grow up. I liked the fact that the ‘monster’ appeared in their nightmares and how things evolved. It’s not too scary, but without doubt still an interesting read (and maybe a welcome little break from the graphic scenes as well.)

The final story is called Fake Man Watches and is without doubt fascinating. It shows that the author is trying to give the story a ‘Stephen King‘ feel, because I had exactly that impression while I was reading it. It’s probably my favorite of the bunch and it is also the longest story of the collection. As in most of King‘s stories, Fake Man Watches talks about a very realistic situation and adds a surreal element to it with just the right dose of creepy… The abusive situation at home both Stephanie and Justin have to endure is something all too real unfortunately, and is very well described. I also liked the ‘fantasy’ element and the whole final scene in the cabin in the woods. Lots of twists for such a short story as well!

As you might have guessed already, I really enjoyed reading this collection of horror stories. My favorite would be between Fake Man Watches and Old Strings for completely different reasons; the first for the mix of different elements and just the right dose of suspense and terror, the second for the entertaintment factor and tribute to B horror movies in general. My least favorite would be Deus Ex Corpus, but that’s more due to the fact that the genre and me simply aren’t a good fit. In short, if you are looking for a proper horror read, enjoy reading short stories and appreciate a variety of different horror (sub)genres represented in the same bundle, Silence Under Screams is an excellent choice. Just be warned that especially the first two stories can get really graphic!


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ARC REVIEW: The Last Gods Of Indochine – by Samuel Ferrer

Title: The Last Gods Of Indochine
Author: Samuel Ferrer

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Signal 8 Press
Finished reading: March 13th 2017
Pages: 422

“I told Jean-Luc I feared entering a world where everyone is a stranger; the truth is, I am escaping from a world where everyone knew me too well.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess I’m terribly behind with my ARCs and this historical fiction story was long overdue. The Last Gods Of Indochine belongs to one of my favorite genres and both the Cambodian setting, era and reference to local mythology had me intrigued immediately. This novel by Samuel Ferrer surely didn’t disappoint. The Last Gods Of Indochine is mostly set in Cambodia and has two main storylines: one set in the 1920s and one set in the 13th century. I was instantly charmed by the story of Paaku the Lotus-Born all those centuries ago, and the mythology and ideas of his world are intriguing. His chapters are without doubt my favorite part of this novel, and I enjoyed learning more about both his world and his character. I wasn’t instantly convinced by Jacquie on the other hand, and it took me some time to connect to her. It was very interesting to read about her journey to Cambodia though and the circumstances under which both her grandfather before her and Jacquie herself had to travel in those days. I also particularly enjoyed their travels within Cambodia and it was nice to see both storylines slowly connect. In short, The Last Gods Of Indochine is a well written historical fiction story with an intriguing plot and a fascinating read in general for fans of the genre.

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In medieval Cambodia, Paaku the Lotus-Born is an orphan raised by a Vishu priest. One day something incredible happens and the community starts to believe Paaku might be the incarnation of a god… Something that might turn out to be dangerous for him and he is not sure if he wants that title in the first place. Meanwhile, in 1921, Jacquie follows the footsteps of her grandfather and travels to Indochina. Her grandfather was a famous explorer who died during his travels, and Jacquie wants to learn more about the country he explored. Soon she starts learning about the tragedy of Paaku’s history and the storylines slowly intertwine…

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If you enjoy reading well written historical fiction stories with an interesting setting and a touch of (Asian) mythology, The Last Gods Of Indochine is an excellent choice. Two stories set in two completely different centuries slowly start to intertwine… And the ‘modern’ world clashes with the medieval story. I had a great time reading this novel and especially Paaku’s POV stood out from me. Such a fascinating story!


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ARC REVIEW: Renegade Red – by Lauren Bird Horowitz

Title: Renegade Red
(The Light #2)
Author: Lauren Bird Horowitz

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 14th 2017
Publisher: Papaloa Press
Finished reading: March 7th 2017
Pages: 420

“Some scars are necessary.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Papaloa Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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For the longest time, I remember a few fellow bloggers including Ashley and Maren saying lots and lots of wonderful things about the first book in this series (Shattered Blue). In fact, it made me wonder why I didn’t see the series mentioned more often… I admit it took me way too long to make true on my promise to give this series a go, but I’m so glad I finally saw ‘the light’. Because this series is without doubt one of the most underrated ones I’ve read to this date! True, it does have a love triangle and lots of going back and forth between the two ‘candidates’, but somehow Lauren Bird Horowitz made me forgive the story for it. And trust me, it doesn’t happen often I actually tolerate a love triangle. How? You just have to read a little sample of the prose to get an idea. The writing style is lyrical, flows and is simply so beautiful! And not only is this series well written, it also has a fast pace and an interesting plot and main characters… I can definitely undersand the love for this series now, and I will be waiting impatiently for the third book to come out so I can read all three books together. If you like YA romantic fantasy, make sure to check out this series! It’s without doubt a hidden gem.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

The story continues right where it ended in Shattered Blue… Noa Sullivan jumps into a collapsing Portal desperate to try and rescue her little sister Sasha. Noa and the Fae brothers Callum and Judah will have to find a way to survive, but it’s not only the different world that complicates things… Their search for little Sasha will take them to dangerous and treacherous places and even their own minds will start working against them. The battle has to be fought both on the inside and out; will they be able to succeed before it’s too late?

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This series isn’t exactly widely known and now I’ve had the chance to experience it myself I really don’t understand why it hasn’t received more attention. I’m sticking with my belief that The Light trilogy is probably one of the most underrated series I’ve read so far! The lyrical writing style will manage to put most YA fantasy fans under an instant spell and even though it does have a slightly annoying love triangle, the rest of the story will make up for it. More than recommended!


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